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So, like, wanna adopt a cat?

These teens don’t sneer—they purr

From Animal Sheltering magazine September/October 2014

The Animal Protective League poked fun at human teens in its light-spirited cat adoption campaign.

Teenagers. The word alone is enough to slump the shoulders of even the most patient parents. Sure, you love ’em, but sometimes it seems like every single thing you do makes them annoyed, angry or just plain embarrassed.

But what if you could adopt the perfect teenager, one who would be a friend instead of running up your phone bill or making fun of your mom-jeans? The Animal Protective League (APL) of Springfield, Ill., found a way to make that happen.

APL’s clever “Adopt a Teenager” campaign was designed to solve a problem—too many teenage cats. Deana Corbin, the shelter’s executive director, says APL “had a large kitten season last year,” and a lot of those kittens turned into teenagers in need of homes. (APL defines teenage cats as those between 4 months and 1 year old.) “We had quite a few of them, so we were trying to figure out [what to do].”

The shelter had done a lot of adult cat specials in the past, but never focused on teens. At a brainstorming meeting, a staff member jokingly suggested that maybe people could turn in their teenagers for one of the shelter’s. “We started having a lot of fun with it,” Corbin said, and as the hilarity ensued, a campaign was born.

The promotion underscored some of the advantages feline teens have over humans—no incessant texting, no breaking curfew, no asking to borrow the car. The playful tag line reads, “Unconditional love … without the attitude!” The special also included a $25 adoption fee, 50 percent off the regular cost.

APL disseminated the campaign materials via Facebook, its regular weekly press release and an email blast to its list of roughly 2,000 potential adopters. It also used campaign visuals to create graphic pieces attached to teen cats’ cages so that adopters could easily identify the cats available under the promotion.

Though the November adoption results—27 cats, or 24 percent of all available teens—weren’t as strong as staff had hoped, teenage cat adoptions actually increased in December to 30 percent of available teens, making the two-month total nothing to roll your eyes at. Corbin notes that November is typically a “hard month” for adoptions at APL, so she wasn’t surprised that staff didn’t see a larger surge. She speculates that the ongoing chatter of amused shelter staff about the campaign helped to carry the increase in adoptions into December.

The promotion was also a hit with attendees at The HSUS’s Animal Care Expo in Daytona Beach, Fla., in May, where the poster took home first-place honors in the “adoptions” category at the Innovation Station competition for shelter and rescue campaigns.

About the Author

Kelly Huegel is a former staff writer for the Humane Society of the United States.